Recent studies have revealed a strong connection between good hearing and high self-esteem, reports the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). In this international survey from Hear the World, over 3 out of 4 respondents said their hearing aids improved their general mood. Meanwhile, people with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report feeling sad or depressed than hearing aid owners. Respondents with untreated hearing loss were also more likely to experience insecurity, anxiety and insomnia—all possible symptoms for depressive disorders.
Difficulty hearing can affect mental health for any number of reasons. Audiologist Gail Brenner told BHI that hearing loss can isolate adults, possibly by limiting human contact and increasing mistrust of others. As for the importance of hearing to human connections, 68 percent of respondents said their personal relationships improved after they started wearing hearing aids.
Growing isolation due to hearing loss can cause depression, which is significantly higher for people with untreated hearing loss. Luckily, a hearing aid can help adults restore their identities and social roles, thus improving their self-esteem.
The effects of hearing loss on self-esteem can be very different, depending on whether the hearing loss first occurred during childhood or adulthood. In a paper for the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People, Dr. Mark Ross considers hard-of-hearing children in regular school settings. These kids find themselves in limbo in between deafness and regular hearing, and they may feel isolated from both “mainstream” and deaf peers.
As such, the kids experience conflicts in social and personal identity—they are left asking “Where do I fit in?” This social difference tends to affect students’ self-esteem more as they enter adolescence. After all, the teenage years are often very difficult, as kids try to figure out who they are and where they belong in society. In search of a concrete allegiance, some hard-of-hearing kids opt to join deaf communities.
On the other hand, claims Ross, hard-of-hearing adults do not see themselves as outside the mainstream of their society. Because these adults experienced hearing loss later in life, they had already established their social milieus and identities outside of their hearing loss. Nonetheless, the onset of hearing loss can threaten an adult’s sense of identity and self-esteem, perhaps by threatening their established social – or even professional roles (e.g. hard-of-hearing officers in the NYPD suddenly seeing less job security due to a recent ban on hearing aids).
As these two studies show, self-esteem is connected to social connections—which often rely upon hearing. There are several ways to address the possible alienation and loss of self-esteem connected with hearing loss. For children and teenagers, Ross recommends focusing on areas in which the student can excel (both at school at in extra-curricular activities) in order to build self-acceptance.
Adults need a similar path of self-acceptance. This begins by directly addressing the possibility of hearing loss. For adults seeing their self-esteem tickled by the onset of hearing loss, a hearing aid could be one simple solution - Audicus Hearing Aids can certainly help with that.